Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Constant Gardener - John le Carré

I’m not quite sticking to the bookshelf (as published in the right hand side power), but I have at least finished another book on the flight back home this afternoon. And I was so engrossed that I didn’t realise that we’d taxied away from the stand, zoomed up the run way and were slowly climbing to cruising altitude … all the while sitting in the window seat!

As a teenager, I read through lots of classic John le Carré, and I got through The Tailor of Panama a few years ago. But I haven’t got around to any of his more recent stuff.

But back in December 2005, before the blog was born, I went to see The Constant Gardener. I found it a hard hitting movie that used its storyline and drug-trial scenario to powerfully questioned our attitudes to other countries (particularly Africa) as well as our sometimes misplaces patriotism to our own.

Beautifully filmed with gorgeous settings providing a backdrop to twisted and tragic circumstances and characters.

So I picked up the book in a 3 for 2 deal in Waterstones bookshop. And over the last week I’ve managed skip through the 500+ pages. This isn’t a review, just some thoughts.

Turns our that the film kept amazingly close to the book. Other than the extra Foreign Office memorial service scene that is used to visually confront many of the protagonists with their wrongdoing, there weren’t any major differences. And reading the book after the film felt like a retelling of the story, filled out with lots of extra details and back plot. But the characters from the film were in keeping with the book and didn’t detract.

Usually I read the book first—Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy—so the screenplay can clash with my original impression of how characters looked and behaved. It can be disappointing. But it worked the other way around with The Constant Gardner.

If you’ve time: read the book. If not, rent the DVD. (Even better, go and see it on the big screen.)


amelche said...

I haven't read the book, but I saw the film a few months ago and wrote about it in my blog (but in Spanish, I don´t know if you will understand it El jardinero fiel). I liked the film, I´ll have to read the book one day. In Spanish the title is "The faithful gardener" I don't know why.

I found your blog by chance, looking for photographs of Newcastle, Co. Down. I lived there for a school year and I worked as a Spanish teacher assistant at a local school there. I think I know N.Ireland quite well (maybe you think I´m showing off but I´ve lived there several times). I was an Erasmus student at Coleraine university in 1995, then I was in Newcastle in 1997-98 and then I was again a Spanish teacher assistant in L'derry in 2002-2003. This summer I went to Cork to visit an Argentinian friend and her Irish husband (and their two children) but we didn't go to N.Ireland. I wrote about my trip in Spanish and then I translated this into English for Peter (the Irish husband) Ireland but I've been lazy and I haven't translated more. I have my English blog a bit abandoned, sorry.

Well, nice to meet you, I enjoyed what I read on your blog. All the best,

Alan in Belfast (Alan Meban) said...

The Faithful Gardener - "faitful" is an excellent word to describe Justin Quayle, the diplomat at the centre of the story.

Thanks for the comments.

Glad you have enjoyed your stays in Ireland - north and south.

Anonymous said...

the book had been in my list of 'to buy/read' but i never seem to get the chance until a colleague showed up with it in the office, i read the first page and could not keep it down, i had to read it, the next few days was just me and the book, quite an intrigue, Carre exposed lots of realities of my country. i felt i had to watch the film and i have done that on the DVD three times. interesting too, some of the locations picked are what is suprising to me, the slum hospital where Justin's wife had to give birth in reality 'is the biggest referral hospital in East and Central Africa' truthfully a slum hospital would look worse than what we see, could the story really be a reality that happens?